DC, October 21, 2004 (ENS): The 15 member National
Organic Standards Board, responsible for developing
standards for substances to be used in organic production
in the United States, has won clarification of three
standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Last week, at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
public meeting in Washington, DC, the USDA verbally
"concurred" with three out of the four NOSB
inputs on the directives issued by USDA concerning milk,
produce and fishmeal.
complete commentary and a detailed look
at all the issues discussed at the meeting
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IN THE NEWS
by NOSB Chair Jim Riddle.
These directives were publicly rescinded by Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman last May, but there was widespread
concern among many groups, including the Consumers'
Union, that the interpretations made in the directives
remained as the standing policy of the USDA.
USDA officials concurred that antibiotics or other
prohibited substances should not be allowed for use
on the organic dairy farm.
Prohibited pesticide ingredients cannot be used on
crops, officials reaffirmed.
And any synthetics used in fishmeal, as a protein supplement
for livestock, are prohibited unless reviewed by the
NOSB and approved for organic production.
Consumers Union considers the responses from the USDA
to be a positive step in the right direction. But the
consumers advocacy organization, which publishes "Consumers'
Report" magazine, said that it "does not want
to see USDA quietly revisiting these issues as they
did this past summer which led to considerable confusion
about the status of the directives."
Consumers Union and others have asked the USDA to issue
dated written responses and to post them on the National
Organic Program website so that consumers, farmers and
certifiers are clear about USDA's current interpretation
of the organic standards.
A detailed discussion of the three directives is online
Consumers Union cautions that until the USDA establishes
organic standards for fish farms, for pet food and for
personal care products, the claims on labels cannot
be relied upon to meet organic criteria, however defined.
CU's advice to consumers is "save your money and
don't buy organic fish, pet food or personal care products
until the USDA provides additional standards."
The USDA has announced that the first audit of the
National Organic Program has been completed by the American
National Standards Institute and will be released in
mid-November. This audit will provide the public, farmers
and certifiers with a report card of how well the USDA
is managing the accreditation of certifiers and where
improvement is needed.